Fresh off signing a one-day contract to retire with the Toronto Blue Jays, right fielder and power bat José Bautista will be enshrined on the Level of Excellence at the Rogers Centre, an honor bestowed upon those who contributed in numerous ways to the franchise both on and off the field.
Bautista joined the organization back in 2008. The then-third baseman was traded to Toronto from the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the club needed a man on the hot corner with future Hall of Famer Scott Rolen on the injured list. Heading the opposite way was catcher Robinzon Díaz, who spent the majority of his career in the minor leagues following the deal. Looking back, it was one of the most lopsided deals in franchise history.
The following season, the Blue Jays started to use Bautista more in the outfield. His plus arm was a key asset for the club in the corner spots, and he would eventually take over the right field job for the remainder of his time with the franchise. He would finish with 83 outfield assists from right field throughout his ten years with the Blue Jays.
Standing at six feet tall, Bautista established himself as a power hitter shortly after his arrival in Toronto with his quick bat and easy motion in the batter’s box, cranking 54 home runs during the 2010 season and setting a single-season record for the Jays that still stands today. He also led MLB in homers that year.
The righty-batter added a league-leading 43 home runs, 132 RBIs, and a 1.056 OPS to his resume the following year, finishing third in AL MVP voting that offseason. He would lead the American League in RBIs again in 2015 with 110 while earning another All-Star nod, his sixth consecutive appearance at the Midsummer Classic.
With the Jays, Bautista appeared in back-to-back postseasons during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, most famously hitting the game-winning home run during the 2015 ALDS against Texas.
With his majestic toss of the lumber after hitting an inside fastball to the second deck, aptly named “The Bat Flip,” Bautista cemented himself in Jays’ folklore with one of the biggest home runs in franchise history, behind only Joe Carter’s World Series-winning knock back in 1993. This memory will be commemorated with a bobblehead of the historic moment, to be given out during the game later today.
Through 1,235 games and 4,364 at-bats with the Jays, Bautista amassed a .253/.372/.506 slash line with 288 home runs, 766 RBIs, and 803 walks (all three of which sit within the top five in franchise history).
Bautista also hit for a .878 OPS and a 136 OPS+ during his tenure with the Jays and amassed a 38.3 bWAR given his offensive and defensive abilities from 2008 to 2017. Bautista also participated in the Home Run Derby on four separate occasions, almost winning the contest in both 2012 and 2014 but losing in the finals.
Following his time with the Jays, Bautista spent time with numerous organizations, such as the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Atlanta Braves but couldn’t secure a full-time role. He has not played a major league game since 2018 but never formally retired until yesterday.
Outside of MLB, Bautista has also represented the Dominican Republic in numerous tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic and the 2020 Summer Olympics, where he helped his native country win a bronze medal.
All in all, Bautista finishes his career with three Silver Slugger Awards and two Hank Aaron Awards. He leads Blue Jays position players in bWAR and slots in second in both home runs and RBIs behind only Carlos Delgado, who already finds himself on the Level of Excellence.
After today’s ceremony, which will feature numerous former teammates such as Edwin Encarnación, Ricky Romero, and Justin Smoak in attendance, Bautista will find his name forever enshrined on the left field wall, joining former greats like Delgado, broadcaster Tom Cheek, Roy Halladay, and Joe Carter, an honor the Dominican product has rightfully earned for his contributions to the Toronto Blue Jays organization.